After the 2011 sexting scandal, nicknamed “Weinergate,” forced former New York City Congressman, Anthony Weiner, to resign from office—you would have thought he had learned his lesson. But last week, we learned that losing his job did not deter Weiner from sending sexts to more women on the internet.
Gathering from headlines, the world seems to care more about whether his poor judgment will affect his performance as mayor. But little attention has been given to the obvious: how his behavior reflects a widespread problem many people have with sexual addiction.
These behaviors need to be openly discussed. Perhaps it’s due to public embarrassment and shame. Whatever it is, the real issue is being swept under the rug that decorates highbrow conversation about elected officials and responsibility.
But Weiner’s running for mayor, while it brings this issue to the spotlight, has nothing to do with the problem. Whether it is a mayoral hopeful or your next-door neighbor, there is great cause for concern about the behaviors of sexual addiction and the role that technology plays in today’s most severe sexual addictions.
Internet pornography addiction, for instance, is an increasingly common, hidden problem for many people, and there are many similarities between the effects of Internet porn and sexting. Neurologically speaking, the brain does not know the difference between pornography viewed on the computer or a picture someone sends on the phone. Your brain also doesn’t know the difference between the types of images conjured up by the imagination when reading published erotic literature or private seductive texts. What does happen is the pleasure pathways of the brain are overloaded with dopamine, and the overload of dopamine exhausts the brains natural regulatory process. In short, a person ends up craving a constant high.
No addiction is healthy. Addictions frequently interfere with one’s longer-term goals, family life, and, as Weiner’s story attests, work life. Addictions are neurological realities, and sexual addictions are among the strongest types. In fact, the brain hormones involved in sex addiction are more severely affected than in a heroin or cocaine addiction. This is why sexting and pornography addiction should be subjects of serious concern.
So instead of asking whether or not Weiner is fit for his job, we should take his scandal as an opportunity to address sexual addiction as a broader social concern. Thankfully, there is help available, but one has to recognize the problem first.